BROTHERLY LOVE? OH, BROTHER!
Philadelphia was in an uproar Wednesday over the decision of The Real World to pack up and leave the city rather than negotiate union contracts. A group called Young Involved Philadelphia held a rally at the proposed location of the The Real World shoot, where one participant told the Philadelphia Daily News, "For people my age, having Real World film here was even bigger than the X Games. ... bigger even than the Sixers. It's bigger than the Eagles. I just can't explain how depressed and angry everyone is about it." Two Daily News columnists, Ellen Gray and Jill Porter, duked it out in print. Gray applauded the fact that Philadelphia had become "the first city ever to have sent The Real World packing" because it didn't "want to pay union wages to produce a show that celebrates conspicuous consumption." Taking a 180-degree different view, Porter wrote: "The goon squad has done it again. The short-sighted union oafs who wreak havoc in pursuit of their own self-interest have run MTV's The Real World out of town." Although Philadelphia Mayor John Street had offered to mediate the dispute, today's Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Bunim/Murray Productions, the company that produces The Real World had said that its decision to abandon Philadelphia was final. Sharon Pinkenson, head of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office said that the producers had told her "they were a nonunion company, and they were nonunion everywhere, and they did not want any deals with the unions." And in an editorial today, the Philadelphia Inquirer observed that other union union cities had managed to welcome the nonunion production company, and concluded: "Philadelphia can't afford to pooh-pooh the loss of any publicity, let alone the chance for a slick months-long commercial tailor-made to appeal to young people. ... If City Hall, labor leaders and the producers can't make this deal happen, they all might just find a place on another popular MTV show: Jackass."
NBC AGREES TO HELP STRUGGLING PAX-TV
Palm Beach, FL-based Paxson Communications, which has had a stormy relationship with NBC, announced a new deal with its 32-percent stakeholder Wednesday that calls for NBC executives to act as consultants to PAX-TV in the development, production and programming of new series as well as developing an overall strategy for the ratings-challenged network. Matt Wilcox, an analyst with KDP Investment Advisors, told today's (Thursday) Palm Beach Post: "From Paxson's standpoint, they need to do something. For a couple of years, Paxson has been putting out shows and hoping that things will improve and they continue to be at the bottom. ... If they plan to cash in on [predicted] improvement in advertising, they have to come out with some type of programming that people are interested in."
CNN COFOUNDER: CNN DROPPED THE BALL IN COVERING MADRID BOMBINGS
CNN cofounder Reese Schonfeld has criticized CNN for being behind its international sibling, CNN/I, in reporting the Madrid bombings and failing to recognize their import afterwards. While the BBC was "all over the story," with three reporters on the scene, Schonfeld wrote on his website, meandted.com, CNN was running a feature from a Boston television station about same-sex marriage. Most U.S. viewers, Schonfeld observed, tuned into Fox News Channel for word about the attacks. Ratings for last week showed Fox News up 4.8 percent, while CNN fell 3.2 percent. Schonfeld commented: "It used to be that CNN always came through on the big stories. They certainly have more people on the scene in Madrid than Fox or MSNBC and they still lost market share. My heart weeps for them and me. [Schonfeld remains a stockholder in Time Warner, CNN's corporate parent.] It drives me bleeping nutz!"
CHICAGOAN SINISE TO STAR IN CSI: NEW YORK
CBS has confirmed that actor Gary Sinise, who has made Chicago his base of operations -- he is the co-founder (with John Malkovich) of the influential Steppenwolf Theater in that city -- has been signed to star in the new CSI spinoff, CSI: New York. The network said that Sinise will first appear in an episode of CSI: Miami in May. Sinise is best known for his Oscar-nominated role as an embittered Vietnam vet in the Tom Hanks starrer, Forrest Gump. He also received critical praise for his performance in the title role of George Wallace on the TNT cable network in 1997.
ALL-GAY CHANNEL TO DEBUT IN U.K.
An all-gay pay-TV channel is due to reappear on Britain's BSkyB service today (Thursday), offering "adult" programming between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. Subscribers are charged $9.00 per night. Welcoming the channel, the Internet site Gay.com UK commented: "Let's hope the content is something to be proud of, and hopefully moved from the adult section in time."
REALITY SHOW BEATS CSI IN BRITAIN
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation was trounced for a second week in a row in the U.K. on Tuesday by the reality series Brat Camp, which follows a group of troubled British teens who have been sent off to Utah to participate in a "wilderness camp." According to British reports, the audience for the Channel 4 series rose to 3.72 million (from 3.56 million a week earlier) against 3.50 million for CSI, which airs on Channel 5 and is the network's highest-rated program.
HERZOG WANTS TO KEEP STEWART AT COMEDY CENTRAL
Doug Herzog, who is returning as boss of Comedy Central in May after a six-year absence, says his first order of business will be to re-sign Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show. Stewart's contract expires at the end of the year. In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Herzog, who left Comedy Central to become Fox Entertainment president in 1998, commented: "I'd be pretty surprised if Jon were not on the air here a year from now ... I think Jon feels it's a great venue, even though the platform isn't quite as big as the broadcast networks. Having gone over to the dark side, I know it's not always what it's cracked up to be." [In 2000, Herzog famously remarked, "Despite reports to the contrary, 'Beleaguered' is not part of my official title." He eventually took over as head of USA Networks.]
FOX SAYS IT HAD PIRATES IN ITS MIDST
Two Fox employees have been fired after security agents for the company reportedly discovered that they had been downloading pirated movies and expensive software onto a Fox computer network that could be accessed by a "warez" -- or file sharing -- group. Word of the alleged in-house pirates was revealed in an affidavit posted Wednesday on the Smoking Gun website <www.thesmokinggun.com>. The two fired employees were identified as Lisa Yamamoto, a member of the information technology department, and Kevin Sarna, identified as a Fox contract employee. In a statement Fox said that it was "outraged that individuals within our own company not only engaged in this behavior but also used our technology to do so." At the time of the investigation, the pair had allegedly downloaded 14 movies on the Fox server. Not all of them were produced by the studio.
PASSION OPENS IN GERMANY AMID FIERCE CONTROVERSY
Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ is opening in Germany today (Thursday) -- three weeks ahead of schedule -- amid a public controversy more heated than the one in the U.S. Salomon Korn, vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said in a statement, "The anti-Semites will only have their views on Jews confirmed." Catholic groups also expressed concern. The German Bishops' Conference said, "We urgently warn against using the suffering of Jesus as an instrument for anti-Semitism." The archbishop of Hamburg, Werner Thissen, warned that audiences were likely to "see only the blood while missing the message of redemption." Jewish author Rafael Seligman said in a television interview that he thought Gibson used the biblical message as "an alibi for violence." In the German weekly Der Spiegel, German essayist Henryk M. Broder commented: "Amazingly, Jews will once again be held responsible for a murder that happened almost 2,000 years ago, while other people don't want to hear anything any more about the murder of millions just 60 years after it happened." Virtually no films dealing with the Hitler era have had wide distribution in Germany since the end of World War 2.
SONY PICTURES PROVIDING FREE "PREVIEW" DVD'S
Sony Pictures has begun distributing free "preview" DVDs for its April 2 release Hellboy at Best Buy stores. The DVD contains 10 minutes of actual footage from the movie as well as interviews and trailers for Spider-Man 2 and Resident Evil: Apocalypse." Based on the Marvel comics series, Hellboy is not as well known as many of the comic publishers' other superheroes, said Terry Curtin, head of marketing for Sony-based Revolution Studios. "We needed a way to introduce our audience to Hellboy beyond TV commercials and movie trailers," Curtin said.
JULIE ANDREWS SINGS AGAIN!
Julie Andrews has performed a musical number on a movie soundstage for the first time since a throat operation stilled her singing voice in 1997, the Associated Press reported today (Tuesday). The wire service said that Andrews' performed a song for the upcoming The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. Dawn Soler, the film's music supervisor, told A.P.: "She's everything you want Julie Andrews to be; she's such a professional. ... She nailed the song on the first take. I looked around and I saw grips with tears in their eyes."
VIVENDI SUES BARRY DILLER
Vivendi Universal has sued Barry Diller's Interactive Corp., claiming that Diller is impeding its plans to sell Universal Studios, its theme parks, and its cable channels to G.E., which plans to merge them with its NBC assets. In the lawsuit, Vivendi accused Diller of attempting to use his interests in the Vivendi enertainment units to force his terms in a separate tax dispute with Vivendi. Diller declined to comment on the lawsuit. NBC released a statement saying that Diller's consent was not necessary in order to close the deal with Vivendi in May barring any other hitch. At the same time Vivendi reported vastly improved financial results for 2003. Its net loss of $1.4 billion was in sharp contrast to a loss of $28 billion in 2002.
FOUR-HOUR DVD RECORDER UNVEILED
Sony has unveiled a new home DVD recorder that uses "double-layer technology" to enable a four-hour movie to be recorded onto one side of a disc, nearly twice the capacity of current discs. Incorporated into personal computers, the discs will hold up to 8.5 GB of data and record at high speed (8x). Sony said that it expects to sell an internal drive for about $230 and an external one, presumably aimed at home entertainment systems, for $330. The DVD recorders are due to be shipped late in the second quarter.
MERCEDES MCCAMBRIDGE DEAD AT 85
Mercedes McCambridge, whom Orson Welles once called "the world's greatest living radio actress, and who went on to fame in films, winning a best-supporting actress Oscar in 1949's All the King's Men, has died in La Jolla, CA. The Associated Press reported today (Thursday) that she died on March 2 of natural causes. She would have turned 86 on March 17. She was also nominated for her role in 1956's Giant. McCambridge's lilting voice was a distinctive attribute in the days of radio entertainment, and for years there was hardly a day when it wasn't heard on one program or another. She also provided the voice of the demon in William Friedkin's 1973 thriller The Exorcist, but had to fight to receive screen credit.
ALMODÓVAR ACCUSED OF SLANDER
A spokesperson for the Spanish Popular Party, defeated in this week's elections, says that the party is considering filing a slander suit against director Pedro Almodóvar for remarks he made just before the election. At a private screening of his latest film, La Mala Educación (Bad Education) in Madrid, a reporter for the Madrid newspaper El Mundo heard Almodóvar commenting on rumors that had been spreading on the Internet that the Popular Party was planning to stage a coup. "If confirmed, it would be horrendous," the director remarked. The following day, his words were published on the front page of the newspaper.Informed of the possible lawsuit, he commented Wednesday: "I just echoed a sea of rumors."